Strictly Come Dancing stars sizzle on Belfast's Odyssey dancefloor
Thousands of fans had a ball as the glittering stars of the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour showed off their fancy footwork at Belfast's Odyssey Arena.
The first night of the Northern Ireland leg of the UK tour was filled with glitz, glamour and sequins as a host of famous competitors entertained the crowds with danceroom drama.
The tour version of the popular BBC1 programme returned to Northern Ireland for a third year.
First on the dancefloor was actress and model Kelly Brook—dressed in a fabulous red outfit— who entertained the fans with a fast moving jive.
She was forced to leave the show in 2007 after the death of her father.
Also in a bid to win the competition was last year’s champ and BBC sports presenter Chris Hollins.
And Ricky Groves, who recently hit the headlines after splitting from his wife and former EastEnders co-star Hannah Waterman, also appeared in the live show and was spotted still wearing his wedding ring.
He was joined by former EastEnders star Natalie Cassidy and ex-England rugby player Austin Healey, actress Zoe Lucker and crickerer Mark Ramprakash.
They were all accompanied by their world-class professional partners, Darren Bennett, Matthew Cutler, Brian Fortuna, James Jordan, Ola Jordan, Lilia Kopylova, Natalie Lowe, Kristiana Rihanoff, Aliona Vilani and Ian Waite.
Like the television show, all couples faced judges’ comments and scores, with a few scathing comments from Craig Revel Horwood sparking boos from the audience. Favourites Len Goodman and Bruno Tolioni were also on hand to give their opinion on performances.
Meanwhile sharp-tongued judge Arlene Philips, who was axed from Strictly Come Dancing last year, reappeared on the panel.
The move by the BBC to get rid of the veteran choreographer, who is 66, sparked an ageism row when she was replaced by former winner Alesha Dixon.
More than 11 million people tuned in last year to watch 38-year-old Hollins battle it out ballroom-style with Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle.
Ricky wowed the judges with his natural ability and impressive lifts but he failed to win over the public, who backed the underdog.
A matinee and evening performance will take place today. All shows are sold out.
So, who got the night’s biggest cheer?
You just have to love it: gallons of glitter, buckets of fake tan and enough false eyelashes to make Jordan jealous — and there's even a bit of dancing thrown in.
Not content with having us on the edge of our seats every Saturday night in the autumn, Strictly Come Dancing launched its arena tour in January and tripped the light fantastic in the Odyssey Arena last night.
Just about everything in the live show is familiar to the avid fan. Most of the stars of the last series are featured including finalist Chris Hollins and semi-finalist Ali Bastian, Natalie Cassidy, Ricky Groves and veteran Austin Healy. They are of course accompanied by their professional partners who treat the audience to some stunning group dances throughout the evening.
The format is familiar, too, with the four judges giving their verdict before the text lines are opened giving the arena audience the chance to cast their vote.
Getting to see some of the most popular faces from the most recent series up close was a real treat and the dancing was as you would expect, mostly fantastic. The craic coming from the judges’ table was mighty and a returned Arlene Phillips got the biggest cheer of the night.
One can't help feeling that the tour must be a little like Groundhog Day for its participants though, forever doomed to dance the same competition over and over again. But for the audience it was a real treat.
K erry McKittrick